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Saturday 18 November 2017

Firefighters in Dublin to start industrial action next month over safety concerns

Dublin Fire Brigade respond to an incident at the old Motor Tax Office on Chancery St
Dublin Fire Brigade respond to an incident at the old Motor Tax Office on Chancery St

By Alan O’Keeffe

SIPTU members in Dublin Fire Brigade have served notice they will begin industrial action on October 5 due to safety concerns over staffing levels.

The union claimed Dublin City Council has failed to maintain agreed minimum “safety critical staffing levels.”

Union sector organizer, Brendan O’Brien, said the firefighters were left with no option but to start industrial action because of a failure to maintain agreed staffing levels critical to providing safe systems of work.

The industrial action will initially take the form of refusing to work “unsustainable levels of voluntary overtime” on selected dates.

Management of the fire service will be informed of these dates in the coming days, said Mr O’Brien.

Union convener for the fire brigade, Gerry Harris, said last night the firefighters were “forced into this regrettable action because of management reneging on an agreement concerning the recruitment of new firefighters which was reached in May 2015.”

“This agreement set out a plan to recruit new firefighters which was in line with a circular from the Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, that directed management to ensure safety critical posts where maintained at agreed levels,” he said.

SIPTU representatives agreed to attend a number of meetings of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) in an attempt to find another solution. However, at these meetings the brigade’s management and the City Council failed to present a credible alternative plan,” claimed Mr Harris.

“At present, Dublin Fire Brigade cannot provide a full service to the public without the use of unsustainable levels of overtime and the cancellation of safety critical firefighter training.” Today, due to understaffing, the service in Donnybrook Fire Station was reduced to 50pc cover even though there were 22 firefighters on overtime.

SIPTU members in the brigade voted for industrial action, up to and including strike action in a ballot.

The union claims the fire service is 70 firefighters under strength. This figure is expected to have risen to over 100 by next year meaning the service will be up to 15pc less than the required level of firefighters to meet safety standards, he said.

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